Symbols of Diaspora Jewish identity: An international survey and multi-dimensional analysis

Erik H. Cohen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations


    Symbols are important in representing religious and ethnic identity, particularly in the postmodern age. Using a case study of Jewish adolescents, this article explores the use of symbols in expressing identity. A structural typology of symbols is developed, based on responses to a list of 20 symbols of Jewish identity by over 40,000 Jewish youth from around the world, who were surveyed during educational tours to Israel. The multi-dimensional smallest space analysis (SSA) technique is used to develop the typology by graphically representing the correlations between the symbols. Symbols representing the struggle of the weak against the strong are at the core of the typology. This core is surrounded by sets of symbols related to religion, family, Israel, the Holocaust, justice, and contribution to world culture. A parallel centre-periphery structure indicates that people are more central symbols than places or objects. Sub-populations of self-defined "religious" and "non-religious" Jewish youth are compared in relation to this typology of symbols by introducing them into the SSA as "external variables". Applications of the typology of symbols to other ethnic and religious groups are explored.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)293-304
    Number of pages12
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2008


    • Diaspora
    • Identity
    • Jewish identity
    • Multi-dimensional analysis
    • Symbols


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